How to use your strengths to overcome your challenges

What are Strengths?

Every person has a unique combination of strengths or gifts that they can use. These strengths are essentially qualities that come most natural to you and are at the core of who you are. If you are not aware of your strengths or have a vague idea of what they are, it might be worthwhile to take an inventory or assessment. There are many online inventories available to help you assess your strengths, but I like the free and scientifically validated Via Assessment (https://www.viacharacter.org/) created by Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson, two well-known researchers in the field of Positive Psychology. According to the inventory, there are 24-character strengths. Each person has all of these strengths, but to varying degrees therefore giving each person a unique profile.


Why do Strengths Matter?

Strengths matter because they determine how you show up in various areas of your life. They influence how you define your work, and your styles of leadership, learning, dealing with conflict, and decision-making. For example, someone who is systems oriented tends to be thoughtful and directive in their leadership style and certain and decisive in their decision-making style. Obviously, this will impact how they are at work. Sometimes we can overuse a strength especially under stress. So the person who is certain and decisive, may appear obsessive and controlling. So we have to be aware of both the positive and negative sides of our strengths.


Our strengths can be very valuable especially when we come across something challenging. Recognizing and building on our strengths improves the trust we have for ourselves making it more likely to achieve our goals. For example, if I am aware that I connect well to other individuals, I might use this strength to help me overcome my lack of motivation to do a task. If I surround myself with people who have to do the same thing, then the camaraderie I feel from the group helps me get the task done. So focusing and using our strengths helps us feel a sense of well-being and improves our chances of flourishing in our lives.


How can I Leverage My Strengths?

Here are the steps to help you leverage your strengths:

1. Know and list out your 5 top strengths. (If you don’t know, take the Via Assessment)

2. Write out a current challenge you are experiencing.

3. Ask yourself which of your 5 top strengths are best to overcome this challenge. Write out strategies using these strengths.

4. Implement your strategies.

5. Reflect on how it went. What happened when you used your strengths? How did these strengths serve you?


Leveraging what is already working will radically improve your quality of life without making you feel like you are something you're not. Knowing and using your strengths (not overusing them—it’s a fine balance!) is vital to knowing yourself and is the gateway to achieving your goals.


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